The world of NASCAR has been kind to the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival® in providing such excellent Firefighters’ Marshals for us as Rusty Wallace, Bill Elliott and Jeff “Hollywood” Hammond. And, the Land of Pink and Green has been kind to our driver/athlete guests in providing them with a first-class visit to the Shenandoah Valley…..a visit so memorable that, to a man, these gentlemen have left raving about the wonders of our Festival. They have certainly helped to spread the word throughout the racing world that serving as the Firefighters’ Marshal, in May, in Winchester, Virginia, is a job to be sought after. It is, therefore, with a great deal of pleasure that Festival President [and, diehard racing fan], Mike Stanfield, announces that Multi-Racing-Champion, Bobby Labonte, is coming to Bloomtown in 2017 to serve as our Firefighters’ Marshal!
The 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup Series Champion, Robert Allen Labonte currently competes part-time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, but he is now a free agent. He and his older brother, Terry Labonte [who served as the Festival’s Sports Marshal in 2007], are one of only two pairs of brothers to have both won the Sprint Cup Championship [the other pair being Kurt and Kyle Busch]. He is also the uncle of former Busch Series race winner Justin Labonte. Bobby Labonte is the first driver to have won both the Winston Cup Championship (2000) and the Busch Series championship (1991). He also won the IROC [International Race of Champions] title in 2001. Labonte is also the first driver to complete the “NASCAR Triple Threat” at the same track, by winning races at Martinsville in each of NASCAR’s top three racing series. Festival Organizers would like for the Bloom Nation to know that Bobby Labonte had various television announcing assignments scheduled for Festival Weekend; and, he worked diligently to get those set aside so that he could attend our event!
Labonte was born on May 8, 1964, in Corpus Christi, Texas. He began racing in 1969 [at the age of 5] in quarter-midgets in his home state of Texas, winning his first feature race one year later. From then until 1977, he drove in quarter-midgets throughout the United States, winning many additional races. In 1978, he advanced to the go-kart ranks, but moved to North Carolina with his family following older brother Terry’s advancement to the Winston Cup Series. In 1980 [at the age of 16], Bobby made his NASCAR International Sedan Series debut in Atlanta, finishing third. Bobby made his Busch Series debut in 1982 [at the age of 18] at Martinsville Speedway, finishing 30th. Following his graduation from Trinity High School [all of this had been accomplished before high school graduation], he worked as a fabricator on Terry’s cars at Hagan Racing. Labonte returned to the Busch Series in 1985; and, great success at all levels of racing began for him in 1990.
Over the next 25 years, Bobby would have 729 Winston Cup starts, with 26 Poles and 21 Wins; and, a remarkably consistent record of 203 Top Ten Finishes. Simultaneously running in the Busch/Nationwide/Xfinity Series, he had 203 starts, with 10 Poles and 10 Wins; and, again, a remarkably consistent 100 Top Ten Finishes. This consistency did not go unnoticed by the top NASCAR racing teams. From 1995 through 2005, Bobby drove for Joe Gibbs Racing; and, from 2006 through 2008, he drove for Petty Enterprises. In February 2014, as he was phasing down his career, it was announced that Labonte will appear as a reporter for the new program “NASCAR America” on NBCSN. He made his TV debut early in the 2014 season. Bobby Labonte will appear at as many Festival events as possible, particularly the Firefighter-related events; and, of course, the highlight of his stay in Bloomtown will be his signature ride at the head of the 2017 Firefighters’ Parade.